ways NOT to talk about books

So I’m at the post office today waiting to mail a package (containing a book I’m sending to a Bookmoocher). There’s a bit of a line, nothing crazy, but enough that it’s worth getting out a book to read. (For the record, my threshhold for when it is worth it to get out a book is very low – if it looks like it will be more than a minute, it’s worth reading.)

Today I was reading The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry. I read tons of Lowry books as a kid, and when I heard that she had a new children’s book out that plays on all the conventions of classic children’s books in dark and funny ways, I couldn’t wait to read it. I finished it at lunch, and I can tell you I was not disappointed. Anyway, that was what I was reading when the gentleman behind me in line decided to talk to me.

Gentleman: Lois Lowry, is she related to Malcolm Lowry?

Me: Not that I know of.

Gentleman: You should read Malcolm Lowry, it’s a better class of book.

A better class of book? Really? First of all, do you even know what I was reading? The Willoughbys may not be classic Brit Lit, but it was a great children’s book. And Lois Lowry is no slouch – she’s won the Newbery twice.

Malcolm Lowry and Lois Lowry write totally different stuff, but what makes something a “better class”? I’m assuming the fact that Malcolm Lowry is a dead, white guy helps. Now I’ve never read any of his stuff, so maybe he is an interesting, engaging writer, but the way this guy said it definitely made me want to avoid Malcolm Lowry in the future. Annoying, elitist guy liked him? I think I’ll skip it.

Also, this is not the first time that some middle-aged white guy has told me that I should read something “better” (which so far as I can see seems to mean more literary or academic), so I would just like to state for the record:  This is never a good call. It does not make me think: “Ooh, who is this well-read, interesting intelligent older gentleman? I should listen to what he has to say.” It makes me think: “Ugh, creep, how do I best get out of this situation?

Finally, as a librarian, I take issue with the idea that there are “better” or “right” things to read. Anything that a reader enjoys and wants to pick up is the “right” thing for them to read. Period.

ways NOT to talk about books

.2% Well Read

Hey! Remember the 1% Well Read Challenge? Well, me neither, judging by how little “well-read” reading I’ve been doing. But! I finished another book last week – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (another DailyLit special). Is it sacrilege to say that I liked Northanger Abbey better? Cause I really did. I got into Pride and Prejudice more by the end, but it just didn’t have the bite that I enjoyed in my first Jane Austen book.  I have started a third book (The Princess of Cleves) from DailyLit for the Challenge, which I am really not loving so far. Also, note how what I’m reading so far bears almost no resemblance to the list I started out with

I think it’s safe to say that at the rate I am currently going, I’ll be 1% Well Read sometime in 2010.

.2% Well Read

Obama won and I’m still sad

It is a great thing that Obama won. Amazing and wonderful – and I am very excited and grateful. I voted for him, rooted for him, celebrated when it was announced that he won. I went to bed on Tuesday night happy and hopeful.

But try as I might, as much as I would like to be, I am not happy today.

Because this amazing day in America, this day where hope and change won and history was made, was followed by the news that Proposition 8 in California and the gay marriage and adoption bans in Arizona, Florida and Arkansas have all passed. There is a bitter taste in my mouth.

I would like to believe, like so many people do after this historic election that America is a more just place. That citizens are truly judged on the content of their character. That America is a place that embraces freedom and equal rights. But the fact is, despite how far we have come (and I do not question that for a second – tremendous progress has been made in this country in the arena of civil rights – and the election of Barack Obama Tuesday night is the prime, awe-inspiring example of that), we all still live in a country where every single anti-gay ballot initiative up for a vote on Tuesday passed.

We elected a black man president, we defended a woman’s right to chose in South Dakota, we guaranteed that chickens would be treated humanely in California, for christ’s sake, but America, at least a voting majority, still hates me. Hates that I am making my (normal, boring, home-owning, tax-paying) life with a woman. Doesn’t think my relationship should be recognized. Doesn’t think I should be able to adopt children. Doesn’t think that my family is deserving of legal protection. Doesn’t think that I should be able to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities that straight, married couples don’t even have to think about.

And so I feel sad today. Have felt sad since I woke up on the morning on November 5th and checked the news online.

It feels like, while the world of possibilities are opening up for so many Americans, I am being specifically excluded. That there is something so horrible about loving someone of your own gender, that it is necessary to take rights away from any person who does. (And that is what Proposition 8 did. It didn’t prevent the granting of rights in the future, as many marriage bans have, it took away existing rights. Can you imagine doing that? To anyone?)

I do not like being told that I am “less than”. I do not think that a majority population should be EVER be able to determine the rights of a minority population. You DON’T put rights to a popular vote.

So I am mad, that while everybody else gets to be unequivocally happy about this amazing and momentous election, this election that I was equally invested in, I sit here hurt and angry and upset, because my country has told me that I don’t matter. That while I share the dreams and aspirations of my fellow Americans, I am not deserving of the rights that they enjoy. I’m mad that I don’t get to feel the joy, that I should rightfully feel, having survived 8 years of the Bush nightmare and having elected a great man to be President.

Obama won and I’m still sad

Election Day Distraction

Today is Election Day. I will be voting after work, but in the meantime, I am just a bundle of nerves. I am hopeful, very hopeful, for the future – and also scared that what seems so close may yet be ripped from our grasp.

DC is solidly Democratic and our 3 electoral votes will go for Obama, but I am still eager to add my vote to the many. This will be my first time voting in Ward 5, and I am happy to get the chance to reelect my neighbor as our ANC representative as well.

Beyond the election, I am most nervous about Proposition 8 in California, but there is not much I can do there right now. I gave (a little) money to the No on Prop 8 campaign, and now I am just hopeful that the citizens of my birth state will do the right thing. (Oh, and California – could you send me a replacement birth certificate already? It’s been 5 months at least. kthx.)

Anyway, that has all been a lot of election and very little distraction, so for something totally different, here are my top 5 choices for mystery series with a strong female protagonist. (Mysteries are after all my favorite, distracting brain candy):

Tess Monaghan:  Tess is a former newspaper reporter turned private detective, working in Baltimore. The author, Laura Lippman, is a good writer (she used to be a reporter herself) and the flavor of Baltimore really comes through. It’s always fun to read about places you are somewhat familiar with.

Mrs. Pollifax: Mrs. Pollifax is awesome. She’s a widowed grandmother who heads down to the CIA and volunteers her services. These books offer the added bonus of some vicarious world travel. The last book in this series came out in 2001 and Dorothy Gilman is in her 80s, but I live in hope that another may yet be published.

Agatha Raisin: Set in the English Cotswolds, these books are the definition of a Cozy mystery. I picked up the series originally because I could resist the title of the first book (Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death!). Agatha Raisin is prickly and acerbic and imperfect and you can’t help routing for her.

Rei Shimura: Set in Japan and the United States and featuring a Japanese American protagonist, these books are a good mix of suspense and local color. The most recent one is the weakest of the bunch, I think, but they are definitely worth reading.

Stephanie Plum: To be fair these are probably making it in to the Top 5 because I’ve read a bunch of them lately while searching for a light easy read. Stephanie is a fairly inept bounty hunter, working in Trenton, New Jersey and the hijinks and characters are reassuringly familiar from book to book. No heavy thinking, just turn your brain off and enjoy.

Election Day Distraction